Rachel Lynn Fleeger
May 2, 1980 - January 17, 1995
Rachel is gone! We can hardly believe it. It was so sudden, so unexpected—as
death often is. It seems such a tragedy, such a waste. But is it?
For those of us who allow ourselves to think at a time like this, the questions flood our minds: Why? How could God allow this? Where has she gone? And if it was me, where would I be? Is there any way of knowing?
It's interesting that this is the first question that comes to our minds
when we hear of something like this. Yet people who ought to know better are
telling us that “Why” is a senseless question—there is no reason for anything.
Life is purposeless, they say. You can't have a design without a Designer. At
one end of our high schools, students are told, “You have purpose and worth;
please don't commit suicide.” But at the other end of the corridor, students
“Nothing + nobody = everything. There is no Designer. We are all just cosmic accidents.”
Rachel was taught this, but she didn̓t believe it. And our hearts (and minds, if we let them) tell us this isn̓t true. Even though the world has been damaged by us (what the Bible calls sin), there is more than enough design left in the universe to convince us that Someone planned it, and us.
How Could God Allow This?
When we ask why, we're really asking, “Why did this Someone allow it to happen? We might think He is all-powerful but not loving, or all-loving but impotent to help. But is there another alternative? Could it be that we don't have enough of the facts yet to know how Rachel's death fits into the Big Design? We must confess how little we understand of the world we live in. And if we don't understand atoms, how will we say we understand the God who made them? His ways are “past finding out,” says the Bible.
Could it be the Lord allowed Rachel to be taken to heaven early so the rest of us could get the message? We live as if we are here forever, as if there is no God to meet, no eternity to face.We act as if we are only here to make money and spend it. Surely there must be more than that! If her friends and family got the message, perhaps in the only way we would really listen—that life is short at best and we may, like Rachel, have no time then to prepare to meet God, that now is the time to get ready—then her death would not be a waste; it would be the richest legacy she could give us.
“Rachel” is an ancient Hebrew name. The first Rachel we read of in the Bible, like Rachel Fleeger, was “beautiful and well favored” (Genesis 29:17). This Rachel married Jacob, the father of the nation of Israel. To this nation, God gave the Bible, the most remarkable book in the world. To these people, God promised He would send His Answer to solve our big problem. In careful detail, over 1,400 years, the prophets of God described in graphic detail what this Messiah would be like. You can read it for yourself. He would be born in Bethlehem (where the Bible's Rachel is buried), live in obscurity, be rejected by His own people, be sold for 30 pieces of silver, have His back scourged, have His hands and feet pierced, be with criminals in His death but be buried with the rich, and that He would rise again!
In fact, Jesus fulfilled over 300 prophecies during His 33 years on earth! That should be overwhelming evidence to us. God thought it was: “These things are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Messiah, and that believing, you might have life through His name” (John 20:31).
Where Has She Gone?
When Rachel Fleeger was just a girl, she heard the good news from God that, even though she was a sinner and deserved to be separated from Him forever, God loved her and had found a way to show her mercy without lowering His standard of perfection. She believed that message. She, by the bedside, got honest with God about her sin and asked the Lord Jesus to be her personal Saviour. On October 20, 1991, she made a public declaration of her faith in Christ and her willingness to be identified with Him because He had died for her.
When she was swept into eternity the other day without a moment's notice, the Bible says she was “Absent from the body; present with the Lord.” Right now it's the only thing that really matters. The kind of clothes she wore, how much money she had, the grades she got in school—right now it all seems pretty unimportant, doesn't it! But how can we know for sure, like Rachel, that we are ready to meet God?
How Can We Know for Sure?
It's obvious we can't know if it depends on our performance. If Rachel was hoping that she had been good enough, that she had done enough good things to impress God, we could have no certainty at all. But, says the Bible, salvation is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saves us.” Rachel did not think heaven was gained by her doing; she knew it was already done!
“Rachel” is the Hebrew word for a ewe (or female) lamb. The Bible is always talking about lambs—often about lambs dying. You see, God says sin is so serious that “the wages of sin (what we deserve) is death” (Romans 6:23). But God said He would send a Substitute, someone great enough to satisfy God's heart, holy enough to meet His perfect standards, wise enough to do all that was necessary, and loving enough to die for sinners like us.
In the meantime, until Jesus came, God allowed people to use lambs in their place as substitutes. Of course, no lamb could really put away sin. That was just a picture until the Lamb of God came to put away the sin of the world.
Two thousand years ago, the Lord Jesus cried, “It is finished!” on the cross. God was satisfied and proved it by raising Him from the dead. When you, like Rachel, are satisfied, too, and rest where God rests—in this finished work of Christ, you also will find joy and peace in believing.
If we could speak for Rachel now, we think she would say to us: “Heaven is wonderful! Better than I ever imagined! Please, please listen to what God has said. Get honest with Him about your sin, like I did. Receive Christ as your personal Saviour. I'll be so glad to see you again. I'm waiting for you!”